A Will is a legal document that explains what your wishes are in relation to disposing of your assets and who you want to perform your wishes in the event of your death. This will also include your wishes on a guardian for any surviving children under the age of 18 years. It is never pleasant discussing issues around our own mortality, but it is really important to have a valid Will that makes sure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are provided for.
A Will is used to protect the wishes of the deceased, who is known as the testator. A valid Will needs to meet these requirements:
If these are not all met, the Will is going to be invalid.
Although it is possible to use a DIY kit to do your own Will, which can be cheaper than using a lawyer, this can be an expensive mistake since if they are not done correctly they can be held as invalid. Not only can this be expensive it can also be distressing for friends and family during a difficult time. Issues relating to inheritance can unfortunately arise and become contentious and so taking legal advice can ensure that a valid Will is created and your wishes are protected.
When a person dies without having a valid ill in place, the division of their assets will follow a legal process known as the rules of intestacy. This will also apply in situations where there is a Will but it is not regarded as legally valid.
Under these rules, the estate of the deceased is divided as follows:
Wills can be changed and this is recommended where there is any major life event. Any changes to your circumstances should be reviewed to determine if you need to amend your Will or create a new one. Events such as marriage, buying a home with someone, having children, remarriage and the death of a close relative can all effect your Will and need to be considered carefully since it is likely to result in you needing to make changes.
Where the Will only needs amending then this can be done by adding a codicil, which must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the Will to be legally valid.
Where a new Will is required, the old Will must be destroyed and the new Will needs to state that it replaces any previous Wills. It is important where circumstances change to find out what this does to your Will.
It is possible for a Will to be challenged if there is a suggestion that it does not accurately represent the wishes of the deceased or for any other reason that could invalidate it (such as being signed under duress or the testator lacking the necessary mental capacity). This is why it is very important to get legal advice in order to make sure you have a valid Will.
An important life change in inheritance law is marriage, which immediately voids any existing Will. This is a very important time to ensure you have a new Will made that covers your wishes. In cases of remarriage, this can be particularly important where there are possibly children from different relationships prior to the marriage.
Divorce does not revoke a Will, which remains valid. Following a divorce, if a Will is not updated (and the situation of divorce is not covered in the Will), the ex-spouse will not inherit but instead be treated as if they died on the date that the decree absolute was granted, and the gift will fail. It is very important to always update your Will after any life changing event.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.